9 Feb 2012

UN resolution failure ‘disastrous’ for Syria

UN chief Ban Ki-moon says failure to agree a resolution on Syria is “disastrous” for the country as it has encouraged President Assad’s government to step up attacks on civilians.

The United Nations secretary general reiterated his “regret” over the security council’s inability to speak with one voice to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

It is estimated more than 5,400 people have died in Syria’s 11-month crackdown on civilian protests. In recent days the city of Homs has been bombarded by shelling. On Thursday the New York based group Human Rights Watch said in a report:

“Indiscriminate shelling of populated areas which results in multiple civilian casualties constitutes a serious human rights violation. The situation is aggravated by the blockade of the areas under attack which prevents the residents, included those wounded by the attacks, from getting access to food and medical treatment.”

The UK ambassador to Syria, Simon Collis, has spoken of his shock at the brutality he has witnessed during the last ten months. In a blog published by the Foreign Office, Mr Collis described the treatment meted out almost a year ago to a group of people staging a silent protest in Damascus last March:

“After 10 minutes, the regime had had enough. Plain clothed security forces moved in en masse. We stood and watched as they beat innocent civilians with sticks and batons. No care was taken for the elderly, for women, for the young children. All were treated with equal brutality.

Diplomatic stalemate

Last Saturday Russia and China used their veto powers to block a security council resolution backing an Arab League peace plan that calls for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step aside.

The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon described the lack of council unity as “disastrous” and said it had encouraged the Syrian government to step up its attacks on civilians.

He also said the head of the Arab League plans to send observers back into Syria and has raised the possibility of a joint mission with the United Nations.

The UN chief’s comments to reporters – after he briefed a closed UN Security Council session – came amid a search for new diplomatic approaches to deal with the protracted violence in Syria.

Read more: Is it 'suicidal' for Syrians to use weapons?

Joint mission to Syria?

Ban revealed that he spoke on Tuesday with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby, who he said intended to send the Arab League observer mission back to Syria and ask for UN help.

“He further suggested that we consider a joint observer mission in Syria, including a joint special envoy,” Mr Ban added.

The UN chief provided no specifics, but the idea appears aimed at giving the regional group a boost after the league’s earlier mission was pulled out of the country because of security concerns.

Mr Ban said he brought the idea of a joint special envoy to the security council.

Read more: Who are the Assads?

“Many members expressed their views about the proposal. In the coming days, we will further consult the council before fleshing out details,” he said.

The Syrian regime has used mortars, artillery and other heavy weapons against the central city of Homs, where activists say hundreds have been killed since Saturday.

“If this killing continues it will only erode his (President Bashar Assad) legitimacy as leader of Syria,” the secretary general said.